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Grant Reynolds returns with world wisdom for graduates

July 4, 2019
By ELIZABETH IZZO - Staff Writer (eizzo@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Grant Reynolds walked up to the stage with a blank expression, dressed in a pressed white button-down shirt and black pants, his neat black hair slicked back.

As he took to the podium at the Olympic Speedskating Oval in front of the Lake Placid Middle-High School Friday, June 28, the Adirondack High Peaks loomed in the distance, dark blue behemoths against the light evening sky. To his right, 57 high school students garbed in cobalt caps and gowns sat in various states of attention.

Reynolds, 31, never thought he'd be in this situation - living in New York City, a partner of a successful hospitality group, and considered successful enough to be invited to speak at his alma mater during the Class of 2019's graduation ceremony.

Article Photos

Grant Reynolds, a Lake Placid native and LPHS alumni, was the guest speaker at the Class of 2019’s graduation ceremony.
(News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

"When I was first asked, it took me a while to really understand why," he said. "I think in life, it's hard to look at yourself from the outside.

"It's a great honor, and I think for me, growing up in Lake Placid and my path to where I'm at now in life, I've got a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of me. I'm not an athlete with a gold medal."

A 2006 LPHS graduate, Reynolds is currently a partner at Delicious Hospitality. He helped open Charlie Bird, a critically acclaimed Italian-American restaurant in New York City, along with two other restaurants and a wine store.

When he was 24 years old, he became one of the youngest people to pass the Advanced Sommelier exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He was named to the Forbes 2018 30 Under 30 list.

Reynolds grew up on Hillcrest Avenue. He was 13 years old when he got his first job in a restaurant. That summer, he was tasked with doling out sprinkles on custard at an ice cream parlor on Saranac Avenue. He later passed through the now-closed Villa Vespa, peeling garlic and seeding tomatoes. He worked at Mr. Mike's Pizza on Main Street, and the Lake Placid Lodge.

Asked if he developed his love for the industry in Lake Placid, Reynolds laughed.

"No. I think, for me, it was a skill set that I didn't know would be really beneficial and turn into something that I'd love," he said. "I loved it, but I didn't want to limit myself that early on to that career."

He was a foreign exchange student in Piedmont, Italy, for about a year before attending college in Boulder, Colorado. While earning degrees in Italian and film studies, he worked at Frasca Food & Wine and trained under co-owner and renowned sommelier Bobby Stuckey.

"I started to study wine in a very serious way," he said.

While Reynolds was there, the restaurant received three James Beard Foundation award nominations for Outstanding Wine Service. Frasca won a James Beard award for Best Wine Program in 2013.

"I was the person that talked to you about wine at the table," he said. "This was a place that had a selection of 500 to 600 wines. It's still today one of the best restaurants not only in Colorado but on the West Coast."

When Reynolds graduated, he traveled to Burgundy, France, where he worked the harvest at Domaine Dujac - a 52-year-old wine producer. For a few months, he worked at Copenhagen's Noma restaurant, named the second of 50 best restaurants in the world by a panel of 1,000 culinary experts. He decided to move to New York City in 2012.

"At that point, I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to do," he said. "I knew I wanted to continue to work in restaurants."

Reynolds worked for Grand Cru Wine Consulting before helping open SoHo's Charlie Bird with sommelier Robert Bohr and chef Ryan Hardy. Next came Pasquale Jones and Legacy Records, both Italian restaurants, and Parcelle, a wine shop.

Alongside his best friend from the Lake Placid High School, musician Artur Novoselsky, he recently started the Hillcrest Fund, a scholarship program for local students named after the neighborhood they once shared. The duo hope to award a scholarship between $1,000 to $1,500 to one or two Lake Placid High School students who intend to pursue four-year degrees in a creative field. They also hope to kickstart a mentorship program to connect students with successful Lake Placid alumni.

When Reynolds returned to his hometown to speak at Lake Placid's high school graduation June 28, he hoped to impart upon the students that the world is larger than the Olympic Region - and the opportunities are endless.

"I think all I want to do is encourage people not to get stuck or discouraged by what other people are doing or what they're told to be doing," he said. "Focus on doing the thing that inspires you or makes you the happiest.

"Growing up here, I never knew what I do today was even possible until I moved on and learned. I didn't know that job existed.

"You can have success, you can have a great life in something that you might not even know is a possible career path. And it could be something that you create for yourself, too."

 
 

 

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